All these factors are ignored in the Amnesty report. It so happens that black felons commit 43 percent of aggravated assaults, 66 percent of armed robberies, 27 percent of rapes and 85 percent of interracial crimes of violence, mainly against whites (this last figure from a Justice Department report for 1993).
Since juries generally don’t demand the death penalty for crimes of passion, where the victim is known to the killer, and since blacks are far more likely to commit violent crimes against whites than are whites against blacks, the disparity that offends Amnesty may not imply a racial bias on the part of prosecutors and juries at all. The report does not even acknowledge this as a problem.
The defense of criminals as a civil rights cause is only an extreme manifestation of what has apparently become the very essence of the civil rights movement. Do black children fail to achieve in school? White oppression explains their failure. (Nothing else could without blaming the victims.)
Poor black academic performance cannot be seen as a failure of black families to educate their children, or of the black community to support educational values, which are often referred to derisively as “thinking white.” Black failure can only be the result of some lingering residue of the white perfidy involved in slavery and segregation. Call it “institutional racism.”
Of course, those who invoke the phantom of “institutional racism” are too sophisticated to claim that there are actual racists lodged in our liberal education establishment who refuse to admit black children to legally integrated schools or refuse to teach them when they get there.
Instead, the concept of “institutional racism” is made to encompass an entire system of oppression that invisibly conspires to keep black children down. It may do so through culturally rigged tests; or through the failure to provide black role models in positions of authority; or by providing only underfunded schools to black neighborhoods; or as a result of the pervasive negative pressure exerted by an environment of poverty that cannot be countered with a mere six hours of school. (And, indeed, compulsory preschool is already being proposed by Al Gore and the left as a new social cure-all.)
In reality, the failure of African-American children to make the educational grade cannot be explained by any of the above factors. Statistics analyzed by the New York Times (July 4, 1999) dispel the poverty argument by establishing that impoverished white children whose parents earn less than $10,000 a year score higher on standardized SAT tests than black children whose parents earn more than $70,000.
None of the above arguments, moreover, can explain why Vietnamese children who are poor and discriminated against, whose schools are underfunded and who are culturally at a greater disadvantage than blacks, and have even fewer “role models” to inspire them, still manage to be educationally competitive.
While the oppression theme dominates public discourse, no attention is paid to the real problems that hold African-American children back. There is a symbiosis, in fact, between the political mumbo jumbo of the Kweisi Mfumes and Jesse Jacksons (abetted mightily by patronizing white liberals) and the seemingly intractable social problems of the black community.
The myth of racial oppression, invoked to explain every social deficit of blacks, is an exercise in psychological denial. Crying racism deflects attention from the actual causes of the problems that afflict African-American communities. Its net result is to deprive people and communities who could help themselves of the power to change their fate.
Nearly 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. A child raised in a single-parent, female-headed household is six times more likely to be poor than a child of any color born into a two-parent household. Seventy percent of youth violence is committed by males from female-headed households, regardless of race.
If the NAACP and other black leaders want to end the terrible scourge of gun violence committed by young inner-city blacks, they should launch a campaign to promote marriage and family formation in the African-American community; they should issue a moral plea to the community to stigmatize fathers who abandon their children and parents who have more children than they can afford.
Instead of waging war against law enforcement agencies and supporting destructive racial demagogues like Al Sharpton, they should support the Rudy Giulianis and other champions of public safety, whom they now attack. They should campaign for a tripling of police forces in inner-city areas to protect the vast majority of inhabitants who are law-abiding and who are the true victims of the predators among them.
But to take these remedial steps would require rejecting the bogus charge of white oppression. It would mean abandoning the ludicrous claim that white America and firearms manufacturers are the cause of the problems afflicting African-Americans. It would mean taking responsibility for their own communities instead.